Monday, May 27, 2013

The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

This book proves you can write a book a out anything! Perhaps I am too cynical.

I listened to this on CD. It seemed to take forever, and as I was listening I felt like it could have been way shorter! But something about it compelled me to continue listening and in the end I was really glad I did. Mostly, I think because it justifies my addiction to lists! There's nothing like checking stuff off a list. Sometimes I add things to the list that I have done just so I can check them off.

But that's not really the kind of lists he's talking about.

The author's theory is all success in business can be increased by adding check lists. He has numerous examples in the field of medicine, in construction and in aviation. I'm curious to see how I can implement this idea in teaching. I actually have started some small check lists of things to do each morning and each day after school. I find it helps me be more productive and gets the things that are routine, but important, done quickly and done well.

I went to a workshop on attention where the speaker referred to this book (I still can't figure out how it related to her presentation though). I'm glad I wrote the title down. It's definitely a worthwhile read (or listen, as in my case!)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

It always feels good to read a classic. I have wanted to read this book for a while, so my month to pick the book club book seemed like the perfect opportunity. It is kind of like The Seinfeld Show - a book about nothing. Nothing spectacular happens. It's just the story of a girl who isn't very well off who just struggles and continues to make it in life. There is a tree that grows near her house - one tree amidst all the cement. The tree survives and thrives despite people neglecting it, abusing it, even trying to ruin it.....just like Francie and her family always survive.

I really liked that the mother is a strong character in this story, as is Francie. I loved that they realized that the way out of their struggled was through learning and through reading.

There are some strange characters in the book. Francie's dad is a lovable, handsome and fun guy - but never much of a provider for the family. His mother had three sons. Two died and one got married - which was about as good as dying to her. She was kind of bizarre:

Johnny, Francie's dad, is an interesting sort. He's a drunk who makes his money singing. He never really did want a family, but he does stick around mostly. His mother had all boys and had a hard time not having them around. When Johnny and his wife announced they were having a baby she wailed, "Now she's got you good. You'll never be able to come back to me."

Odd. Sort of. Some mothers have a hard time letting go of their boys.

I loved all the talk of school and learning and reading.

Katie deeply wants her children to have a better life than hers. On her mother's advice, she reads to them every day from Shakespeare and from The Bible. It does make a difference in Francie's life - although not always positive. Sometimes it causes her to be too different from her friends.

Francie finds a school she wants to go to instead of the one in the district where she lives. She and her dad conjure up a "white lie" so she can attend that school.
"It was a good thing that she got herself into this other school. It showed her that there were other worlds beside the world she had been born into and that these other worlds were not unattainable." (chapter 23, p. 176)

One chapter that really struck me was when Francie decides that she will never have female friends. This decision is thanks to a bunch of women who taunt and shun and make fun of a girl who has a baby out of wedlock. Francie even shuns this girl by looking at her cold-faced when she smiles at her. However, when the women inadvertently injure the baby by throwing rocks at the mother, Francie is horrified.

p. 237 (chapter 30) Remember Joanna. Remember Joanna. Francie could never forget her. From that time on, remembering the stoning women, she hated women. She feared them for their devious ways, she mistrusted their instincts. She began to hate them for this disloyalty and their cruelty to each other. Of all the stone-throwers, not one had cared to speak a word for the girl for fear that she would be tarred with Joanna's brush. The passing man had been the only one who spoke with kindness in his voice.

Most of the women had the one thing in common: they had great pain when they gave birth to their children. This should make a bond that held them all together; it should make them love and protect each other against the man-world. But it was not so. It seemed like their great birth pains shrank their hearts and their souls. They stuck together for only one thing: to trample on some other woman....whether it was by throwing stones or by mean gossip. It was the only kind of loyalty they seemed to have.

Men were different. They might hate each other but they stuck together against the world and against any woman who would ensnare one of them.

Francie opened the copybook which she used for a diary. She skipped a line under the paragraph that she had written about intolerance and wrote:

"As long as I live, I will never have a woman for a friend. I will never trust any woman again, except maybe Mama and sometimes Aunt Evy and Aunt Sissy."

And she never did.

There's something magical about this book. I think anyone could read it and find themselves in it. It's a story where women stand up for themselves. It's a story where extended family sticks together. It's a story where despite the odds, they do slowly get ahead. There are no quick fixes. There is a lot of heart ache, hard work, patience and going without along the way.

It's definitely a book I'd recommend!

The Dark (Lemony Snicket)

I got this book out if the library because the illustrator is Jon Klassen, the author and illustrator of I Want My Hat Back.  I loved that book!

When I took this book out of the library the librarian saw it and flipped through it. We talked about how crazy Lemony Snicket is, and then the librarian said, "Do you mind if I just quickly read it?" I had time, so she perused it quickly. There were a number of times she raised her eyebrows. At the end she closed it and said, "That's weird." From her description, I kind of agreed.

Then I read it in my classroom. My students had a totally different take on it. They loved it! They said, "Yes, that is what The Dark feels like!" They agreed that The Dark is real. They loved the illustrations and felt like the author totally nailed it.

That is why I love reading with kids. They get things adults just never get on their own :)

If you're afraid of the dark, you should read this book.

And if you've been afraid of the dark in the past, you should read this book.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Chris Van Allsburg)

Great mysteries! Fabulous story starters.

Goodreads summary:

Fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, entice readers to make up his or her own story. A fictional editor's note tells of an encounter with an author and illustrator named Harris Burdick, who provided the images and captions as samples, each from a different picture book he had written. He left with a promise to deliver the complete manuscripts if the editor chose to buy the books. Burdick was never seen again, and the samples are all that remain of his supposed books. Readers are challenged to imagine their own stories based on the images in the book.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Miss Nelson is Missing

How did I not know about this book?? One of my colleagues sent me a video to watch. After watching the video I had to go find the book....then I had to share it with my class. Love it! I'm thinking this should be one to read at the beginning of the school year! The kids are misbehaving for their lovely good natured teacher. As a result, a nasty substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp comes and teaches them all  a lesson!

We read the story then watched the video. The kids loved it. We discussed what was the same, what was different, and what a great job the class did.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freak the Mighty (Rodman Philbrick)

I loved this book. It is an edgy and entertaining look into a boy's life. I loved the two main characters: Kevin and Max. They're both the kind of kids I would love to play a part in their lives.

Moreso a middle school book.

Goodreads summary:

Two boys – a slow learner stuck in the body of a teenage giant and a tiny Einstein in leg braces – forge a unique friendship when they pair up to create one formidable human force. A wonderful story of triumph over imperfection, shame, and loss.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The False Prince (Jennifer Nielsen)

I've been listening to The False Prince on CD. What an awesome story! My 11 year old son joined in about half way through and didn't take long to get hooked either. Soon he took the CD case and was listening from the beginning.

I was pretty hooked from the beginning with this story. There are plenty of twists to keep you surprised and hooked on continuing the story. When I got to the end of the CD's I quickly got on the library website to get the 2nd book.

The story is about a kingdom where all the royal family has been killed. A Lord in the court decides to avert a civil war he will find someone to pose as the prince and take the throne. He kidnaps three orphans. Why orphans? Because no one will miss them, of course. They have two weeks to train and compete to become the heir to the throne.

I have to go get book 2 right away. This is a great series. I think it will be a great one for our Gr. 3 book club!